Blog Archives

A War Against My Pride And Envy

Hermione Lee Author Interview

Heart of the Forest: Book 1 of the Cousin Friendship Series follows two cousins who, after being forced to spend time together, end up on an adventure in an enchanted world. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Every friend of mine knows about Heart of the Forest because it was my first endeavor at writing. I was ten when I started the first manuscript, then titled “Cousin Relationship”. However, I bagged the story after two months because ten-year-old me couldn’t stand my writing. (I still have that manuscript now, it’s very cringeworthy!) It was only two thousand words then, hardly a novel. But seven years later, after completing nine novels, I finally had the courage to face my first rotten attempt at writing. I retitled the book “Heart of the Forest”, made the plot much more interesting than what it had been, and dedicated it to my ten-year-old self. I think she would have liked that! 

I don’t have any siblings. Only two cousins. That’s why the story is about two cousins and not siblings. In the book, Ilyria breaks the fourth wall by saying, “The rivalry between cousins might make more sense than siblings. We live under the same roof as our blood brothers and sisters, but not always with our cousins. That makes it more likely to develop misunderstandings about them.” This is the second reason I chose to write about two cousins. And by the way, breaking the fourth wall is one of my favorite literary techniques! 

What were some of the emotional and moral guidelines you followed when developing your characters?

Since this is a middle-grade novel, both Ilyria and Jerry demonstrate moral attributes such as courage, kindness, and wisdom, while learning to discover the positive character traits the other possesses. Yet at the same time, both of them must overcome a significant flaw. For Ilyria, it is envy. She envies Jerry, whose glamorous life as a straight-A student incites her jealousy and hatred. For Jerry, he must overcome his pride, which prevents him from befriending Ilyria in the first place. Interestingly, Jerry is painted as a villain in the first chapter, but then readers will grow to realize that he is “the lesser of two evils”, and in fact, Ilyria is more flawed as a character. It’s also worth mentioning that I once waged a war against my pride and envy, and that’s why I made my characters battle them, too.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Heart of the Forest deals with many themes—parent-children relationships, childhood innocence, sibling rivalry, and criticism regarding the educational system. I’ll share a couple of my favorite sentences from the book:

.Hurrying. Adults were always hurrying in their lives, fast-forwarding their clocks and running from place to place in a rush to get their tasks done, their duties fulfilled. Seldom did they stop to appreciate the little charms and marvels in life. 

.Magic did not discriminate with age; as long as one believed, as long as one kept their heart open and welcomed miracles with wide arms, they’d find the world a much better place than they did in the first place.

.”Stories are like bridges that connect people with each other. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Lewis Carroll, they’ve been dead for decades. But when I pick up their books and read their stories, it’s like they’re talking to me. It’s like I’m getting a glimpse into their brilliant minds and communicating with them in a spiritual way. And I’m not talking about fictional stories, either. Real stories have that same power. If two strangers share an experience and they tell each other about it, bingo—a connection formed.”

.”Not everything has to be important or unimportant. It all lies in the people who define and determine them. And who’s to judge? That’s a question with no answer. It varies, you see.”

.Only by setting our prejudices aside and focusing on what we have in common can we reach and achieve true harmony, for too often do we judge instead of understand, criticize instead of feel for another person.

.”I just like to think everything’s possible. It’s nice to believe the world has magic before growing up and getting accustomed to plainness.”

What is the next book in the series that you are working on, and when will it be available?

The Cousin Friendship Series consists of four books—Heart of the Forest, Magic of the Clearing, Rhythm of the River, and Soul of the Wind. I haven’t started writing Magic of the Clearing yet. Maybe it’ll be available next year. I’m kind of skipping around with various novel projects at this moment. Last week, I just finished a YA fantasy romance called The Lost Siren. And now, I might start a novel about a mortal boarding school with teachers who are in fact wizards and witches. It will be my first attempt at the paranormal genre. 

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

It’s Thanksgiving, but Ilyria Norton isn’t feeling thankful. Her cousin Jerry Norton and his family are coming for a visit, and as always, she is forced to listen to her pompous cousin’s achievements. However, a mysterious voice that penetrates the woods by her house calls for her and Jerry and invites them to the Cave of Light in the heart of the forest. An encounter with a giant tarantula, a robin that leads them to a haunted greenhouse, and an enchanted forest defy all logic and reason as Ilyria and Jerry embark upon an adventure of magic. On their way to greet their destiny and find out the identity of the disembodied speaker, they connect with each other for the first time through the challenges along their journey. In the end, they both grow to realize that the word “cousin” means much more than a bloodline that links them together; it also represents a bond that will be strengthened after this life-changing mission.

Heart of the Forest: Book 1 of the Cousin Friendship Series

Twelve-year-old Ilyria wants nothing more than to write an incredible fantasy novel…and outdo her perfect cousin Jerry. However, when Thanksgiving Day arrives, Ilyria finds herself sandwiched between her disapproving parents, her doting aunt, uncle, and the insufferable Jerry. Things are only made worse when both sets of parents insist the cousins should spend time together. So, heading out into the dark forest, the two teenagers soon find themselves at the beginning of a wondrous adventure, with only each other to rely on. Facing deadly obstacles and dangerous pathways in search of the mysterious force that called them forward, Jerry and Ilyria must learn more about each other and about themselves if they have any hope of survival.

Taking place partly in our world and partly in a magical realm, Heart of the Forest: Book 1 of the Cousin Friendship Series by Hermione Lee is a thrilling journey of discovery. While facing numerous threats and encountering endless wonders, Ilyria and Jerry must learn to overcome their prejudices in order to genuinely understand one another. I liked that this story is about cousins, which is relatively rare in the field. I loved that I never knew what was going to be around the next corner, and the nonstop action kept the pages turning. I was as angry as Ilyria at the parents in the story, finding them to be the most irritating family members I have encountered in literature outside of a Charles Dickens novel. However, I loved the interwoven nature of the story, where I felt that I was not only experiencing the adventures of Ilyria and Jerry but something of the author’s personal journey.

One way that the author helps readers to develop empathy and an emotional connection to their main characters is through their struggles. The teenagers encounter numerous enemies, perform multiple physically demanding escapes, and practically hike across half a continent, only stopping to eat and sleep once in the entire adventure. By the end of their journey, they have been so exhausted, hungry, and dehydrated. Recognizing this plight gives the characters an additional level of respect for their endurance.

Heart of the Forest: Book 1 of the Cousin Friendship Series is an excellent middle-grade fantasy novel, perfect for ages 10 and up. This story is about magic and wonder, overcoming prejudice, and finding the courage to let friendship enter a broken heart. It is a beautiful beginning to an up-and-coming fantasy novel series.

Pages: 210 | ASIN : B0B6L2ZX3N

Buy Now From Amazon
%d bloggers like this: